WORLD WAR Z
Brad Pitt saves the world from zombies, er, zekes.
“Bwwaaaains!” – that familiar zombie cry that is never uttered once in World War Z, the big new action spectacle starring Brad Pitt. The zombies are not really zombies in WWZ, they are called zekes by the military. Unlike almost every single onscreen zombie before them, the zekes move with lightning speed, bite & release live humans and then move. Really move. They can also jump really high and form massive human ladders. Zekes never seem to run out of energy either. This is easily one of the fastest spreading pandemics ever seen on screen without any clear way to stop them. Thankfully, World War Z doesn’t waste a lot of screen time on origin stuff. We get swept up, right away, into the panic that has engulfed the world.
We first meet out hero, Gerry Lane (Pitt), while he stuck in a traffic jam in Philadelphia. Sitting in the car with his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and their two daughters, all hell breaks loose. Things blow up, panic ensues everywhere and Gerry gets his first taste of the zombie/zekes as they flood into the street. He barely manages to get his family off the street as they escapes into an apartment building. He contacts Thierry (Fana Mokoena), an old friend at the UN, to find out what’s happening. In their conversation it is revealed that Gerry was once involved in UN-type rescue missions before in some dangerous areas. The first scene in the movie had Gerry happily playing the role of a Mr. Mom as he whipped up breakfast for the girls. Thierry is vague about what they know but if Gerry promises to help then the UN will take his family to safety on a secure ship off the Atlantic coast. Nothing quite like blackmail from a massive international body in order to recruit you for your services.
On board the ship, Gerry learns that this invasion has reached global status. As the pandemic spreads, their only hope to stop it is to create a vaccine once they can find patient zero. Gerry kisses his family goodbye as he leaves them on a UN safe ship off the coast of the Atlantic. Going off of military reports the team heads to South Korea first to find patient zero. They are attacked without any finding out any useful information before they quickly whisk off to Israel. Apparently, the Jews have managed to seal off Jerusalem easily since Israel has spent many years dealing with terrorism and security issues. After chaos breaks out in Jerusalem, Gerry’s small crew dwindles down to just Segen (Daniella Ke rtesz), a female Israeli commando, who gets bitten on the hand only to have it chopped before the virus spreads. They decide to head to Wales to locate the nearest WHO-facility where hopefully they can find an anti-dote. Gerry learns that since he lost contact with his family, the UN moved them off the secure boat to facility set up in Nova Scotia. He knows they are not safe until he gets back to them, preferably with a way to fight off the zekes. The ending leaves many questions unanswered.
The movie is based on the best-selling cult novel of the same name by Max Brooks (son of funnyman Mel). The film diverges considerably from the book’s unique structure which has the story set years after the zombie war. It is told through narration describing flashbacks. The movie opted to go a linear take on the first few weeks of the plague hitting. This wholesale change was part of the heavily-rumored troubled production with stories of director/star power struggles, re-shoots and serious revisions to the script. Luckily, the final product doesn’t show many signs of problematic filming. The story has a good pace that balances out the big set-pieces with those tense, creepy, Jurassic Park-like scenes of trying to move through a building quietly and without detection by the zekes. More than blood-n-guts, the movie builds a palpable sense of dread and anxiety. When the action gets intense, there are some nice humorous counter points. There’s also a handful of classic monsters-flying-at-the-screen 3D shots too, if you know, you go see it in 3D.
Unlike Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s fantastic and relentless pandemic thriller, World War Z is content to keep things personal as the movie is almost completely seen from Gerry’s point-of-view. The audience is in the dark just as much as Gerry which remind of Se7en, another Pitt thriller where the audience bumbles along with the detectives. There are times when World War Z wants to veer off into some interesting potential political tangents, the disgruntled CIA agent (David Morse in all his glory) reveals how the North Koreans removed the teeth of all 23 million of their socialist citizens. Israel’s walled-in city conjures up plenty of associations with their troubles with the Palestinians. The United States and China take a backseat if not barely even discussed at all – the rescue of the planet comes down to that old right-wing boogeyman, the United Nations.
Clearly Pitt and director Marc Forester (Finding Neverland) decided to pull a few punches there in order to keep this PG-13 summer blockbuster fare. The film is an enjoyable ride that leaves a lot of the story unresolved by the time the curtains come up. Maybe this film will tap into the nation’s anxious, hyper-emotional mood to become a hit. Pitt has staked a lot of his career and box-office clout on that fact, a sequel will be expected. One thinks they will have plenty to draw from for it, maybe next time that can use Brook’s book.